7.10am and approaching Bombay. Sam my brilliant little laptop is on the little table that flaps up between the bench seats. Some hours ago this was the spot where Mr and Mrs Ganoosh had supper. They have just got off at Borivali, and so has Nathalie, a really nice girl from Frankfurt who shared our carriage – the only European I have spoken to in 2 weeks. Our other companions were a mother and daughter, full house.
We all got on the train at Jaipur at 2pm and Mr Ganoosh barely drew breath!... About their homes in Jaipur and Bombay and London W1 close to Selfridges (actually that one is his sister’s) and their sons in America. And his job (he’s retired now) in the property part of The Times of India, and the state of his health. But he mainly talked about how his country was going down the pan. “America is an honest place, this is not. I am Indian and I say it!” he shouted. “These people are not honest.”
A man came down the carriage shouting chai, chai with his urn and a column of paper cups. Mrs G wanted a cup and handed over her money. Then Mr G went berserk, shouting at the man. It appeared to be about the level of tea in Mrs G’s cup. It was topped up again, and then again. The shouting was deafening – only from Mr G, chaiwallah very cool, smiling. (Indian people (men) often get extremely animated, shout and wave their arms, and I think there’s going to be a punch-up any minute... and then notice that the person they are addressing is smiling and nodding. No problem.)
“You see!” said Mr G when he had recovered, “that is exactly what I mean! They are dishonest. They take full price but they only give half a cup. I could have lost that man his job, and I told him so too.
At 9.15pm when I was thinking I might hook up the middle bunk and take a sleeping pill, crumply carrier bags were brought out from under the seat containing food in plastic pots and bags, paper plates and cutlery. The most amazing selection of curries and pickles, orange, purple and green, and all that goes with it: rice, chapattis, little plastic pots of spice and salt were lined up.
“You see in India,” smiled Mr Ganoosh, “we like to take time over our food, to enjoy it. In America they all eat so fast". (Nathalie and I had ‘Meals on Wheels’ which was good, though not up to Mrs G's standard: we had curry, dhal, rice, chapattis, pickles - for 65rps, ie less than a pound). Mr G asked our man to bring extra veg curry to go with his meal. He also likes extra salt and plenty of (very hot) dried spices to accompany his food. When he had barely started he left the carriage and returned some minutes later with a small pot of oily, dripping vegetable curry. Then he tucked in. “My wife and I like different food. We have been married for 46 years. We fight every day. But we stay married and it is good.”
He ate every scrap of dhal and pickle, it was dripping down his chin and to his elbows. (I offered one of my Sensitive Baby wipes but thank you no, he had tissue.) Then the catering man came back with a box and was sent away with a flea in his ear. I asked Mr G what was in the box..? “The vegetable curry! I ordered it and paid for it, but the man was too slow, I had to get my own.”
After dinner Mr G strolled down the train while Mrs G cleared up the debris. “It’s such a lot of work,” she said. “It’s very tiring and he is very particular, and then the food isn’t right. It’s never right.” I think I would have kicked him!
Then we got settled for the night. Off to the loo (stainless steel Indian loos preferable to porcelain I think), I popped my pill, and dropped off to the soft moaning sound of Mr G trying his best to get comfortable,but what with the sunburn he got from riding in a rickshaw yesterday, and a very sore hip...